Overview: Washington Union Station is the second-busiest station in the Amtrak system and is owned by the Union Station Redevelopment Corporation. In addition to serving Amtrak, MARC, and VRE, the station is a primary intermodal hub for intercity bus service and is the busiest station on the WMATA Metrorail transit system. On an average weekday, the station serves as many as 100,000 travelers, including approximately 8,000 Amtrak and commuter rail riders during each rush hour.
The popularity of Union Station has led to congestion problems for both trains and passengers. Inside the station house, passengers waiting for trains form notoriously long lines that snake through the passenger concourse, creating pedestrian traffic jams, and increasing the chaos of the rush-hour commute. The station’s tracks and platforms are over capacity, handling over 150 Amtrak, MARC, and VRE trains each weekday. The station’s narrow platforms cause serious overcrowding and several platforms are low-level, which require passengers with luggage to climb car steps to board their train and are not compliant with the level-boarding requirements of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA).
In July 2012, Amtrak released the Union Station Master Plan, prepared in partnership with commuter railroads and local stakeholders. It provides a long-term, multi-phased vision for increased capacity with additional tracks and wider all high-level platforms; new amenities for passengers including sweeping modern concourses and retail spaces; and large-scale real estate development above the station’s tracks.
Although much work remains to be done to further refine the master plan and create the necessary public-private partnerships and funding structures, approximately $315 million would fund early action items at Washington Union Station, including relocating facilities to make room for the re-installation of two tracks; beginning preliminary engineering and design for the reconstruction of the platforms and concourse that facilitate Amtrak and commuter run-through service to Virginia and points south; and providing immediate improvements and expansion to the existing waiting areas for passengers.
These investments are intended to add much needed capacity and relieve congestion inside the station, while laying the foundation the longer-term implementation of the Union Station Master Plan.